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Inside Harrods' 90,000 sq ft experiential beauty emporium

The beauty hall at harrods photographer james cochrane

London department store Harrods has unveiled one of the largest beauty destinations in the world as part of its plans to invest in experience, environment and engagement and stay at the forefront of luxury retail.

“Our vision was to create the most exceptional beauty emporium in the world,” Harrods’ director of beauty, accessories, fine jewellery and watches, Annalise Fard, tells Drapers. “We understand the importance of investing in bricks and mortar, as through our store we can offer an unparalleled experience and service that continues to keep Harrods at the forefront of retailing.”

The 170-year-old Knightsbridge landmark is undergoing the biggest revamp in its history, spending £200m as part of a four-year investment plan due to complete in 2021. The retailer’s shop floor is being “entirely redeveloped”. A fine watch room opened in spring 18, menswear has moved onto one floor, and home and furniture is finding a new abode on the third floor.

The latest – and one of the largest developments – is the evolution of the Harrods beauty hall. Once completed, the beauty area – spread over five floors – will increase in size by 53% to nearly 90,000 sq ft, making it one of the largest beauty destinations in the world.

Analyst GlobalData forecast that the UK health and beauty market would reach £22bn in 2018 and grow by 16.6% between 2018 and 2023. Across the board, retailers and brands are stepping up their beauty game. On the high street, department store rivals Harvey Nichols, Liberty, Selfridges and the soon-to-be Frasers from House of Fraser are all remodelling, revamping and reconfiguring their stores to improve layouts and increase customer appeal, and beauty plays a key part in redevelopment plans.

The store can’t just be beautifully designed – it needs to be flexible for the future

Annalise Fard, Harrods

Elsewhere, clothing-focused retailers are moving into the beauty sphere: Asos, Boohoo, Missguided, SkinnyDip and Pull&Bear all launched own-brand make-up collections within the past two years, while retailers such as Topshop, Primark and H&M enjoy continued success with their more established beauty offerings. Online, digital-focused newcomers such as Rihanna’s Fenty and Kylie Jenner’s Kylie Cosmetics have blown open the beauty market, swooping up Generation Z and millennial market share.

“Something exceptional”

Harrods is hoping to capture a larger share of the fiercely competitive and rapidly evolving market through what Fard calls “the three Es”: experience, environment and engagement.

“We are in a position where we can deliver something exceptional in 21st-century beauty. We understand what our customers want, and we can evolve the space and our offer to meet that. The store can’t just be beautifully designed – it needs to be flexible for the future. The new beauty hall will bring trends to life and bring innovation, magic and theatre to Knightsbridge.”

The beauty hall at harrods photographer james cochrane 1

The new space is launching in three phases, starting on 11 June with the beauty hall, which features around 50 brands, including 10 new partners; then a skincare destination in September; and finally a masterclass and beauty treatment area, which will open in time for Christmas.

Designed by GA Group, the beauty hall takes inspiration from Harrods’ history as a residence and emulates a stately home complete with an entry vestibule, a grand staircase, a fireplace, a library and a dressing room, in keeping with Harrods’ historic Grade II listed building status.

“The whole space is inspired by our heritage. We used the Harrods’ archive for inspiration,” explains Fard. “We wanted to create something beautiful for the future. Each area of the beauty hall will be designed like a room of a grand stately home – it is like welcoming friends into our home.”

The library – complete with illuminated books – is home to make-up artist-founded brands, including Bobbi Brown, Charlotte Tilbury and Anastasia Beverly Hills. The area will also feature cruelty-free beauty brand Hourglass’s first UK boutique.

Leaving the library, shoppers then walk into the fashion house and couture brands space, which Fard describes as “highly Instagrammable”. It features make-up from designer heavyweights including St Laurent, Chanel, Dior, Armani – whose area is decked out with Armani Home furnishings – Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci, which is exclusive to Harrods.

Next is the lifestyle arena, which houses brands that are anchored in beauty or fragrance, but offer a wider lifestyle offering – they include Jo Malone, Acqua di Parma, Penhaligon’s, Fueguia 1833 and Diptyque. Fard flags this sector as “a huge future trend” for the beauty market as shoppers seek to align their values with a brand by buying into more than one category.

 It is about being more adventurous, playful and immersive – it is about giving space to new and on-trend products

Annalise Fard

Finally, there is the “millennial play” area, which has windows facing out onto Basil Street, making it the “place to see and be seen”, say Fard. This section features new and up-and-coming make-up brands including Kilian, By Terry, Rodial, Bond No 9, Beautyblender, Glamglow and M2 Beauté. Here customers can test products virtually via new artificial intelligence “magic” mirrors, which digitally map facial features to generate a live rendering, matching skin tone and hair colour.

“We are very lucky as we have a broad base of beauty clients,” explains Fard. “The millennial play area isn’t just for millennials, but for anyone looking for the next big thing in make-up – we want to deliver that to everyone. It is about being more adventurous, playful and immersive – it is about giving space to new and on-trend products.”

Fard describes the skincare hall, opening in autumn, as “the orangery” adjoining the grand house, and says it will bring the world’s most prestigious skincare brands – which are yet to be revealed – under one roof.

The third phase, opening before Christmas, is Harrods’ experiential hall on the lower ground floor, featuring masterclass spaces, a concierge, beauty treatment rooms and a production studio where content can be edited and live-streamed in real time through Harrods’ or its brand partners’ social channels.

Engagement is key

This engagement with shoppers is vital for a modern shopping experience, says Fard.

“We looked at how we could deliver that must-see, must-have world of Instagram and YouTube to Harrods. We wanted to be able to interact with our shoppers directly in real time around the world. We wanted to bring YouTube to life in-store.

“We can live-stream our team backstage at a catwalk show in Paris, talking about the key beauty trends, and then have a make-up artist demonstrating how to create the key looks and techniques as customers ask live questions. It is acting local but thinking global – it is taking experience to another level.”

Although many of the products and brands in the beauty hall are exclusive to Harrods, most are available elsewhere on the high street and online, so making the service proposition and design distinctively Harrods is an essential component to the area’s success, says Fard: “We had to create a beautiful, immersive experience with our brand partners, but delivering that in a Harrods environment is very important. Shoppers still need to know they are in Harrods. A significant part of our beauty offer is available in other places, so the environment needs to be special. If a shopper is going to spend £25 on a lipstick, she needs to have an exceptional experience. She needs to have someone helping her to pick the right colour, wrapping it up beautifully. It needs to be about more than a transaction – it is about making each individual purchase feel unique.”

In a challenging trading market, Harrods is investing heavily in bricks and mortar to create an engaging store environment, placing the customer at the heart of its proposition. A focus on luxury in all facets – from the store to the brands and the service, coupled with genuinely innovative content and technology – make the department store stand out in a competitive crowd. The retailer cleverly blends its illustrious heritage with new tech for the Instagram age throughout the beauty hall to create a distinctively Harrods experience that is fit and flexible for the future.


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